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Taking Perfect Reference Photos

As a general rule, the better your reference photo, the better the final outcome will be. Our pets can be hard to manage at the best of times, let alone during a photoshoot! I recommend using something they love to grab their attention, eg. a treat or their favourite toy. Their excitement for their favourite thing will convey in your portrait! 

For tips on family portraiture photos, skip to here.

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Family Portraiture Reference Photos

  • For family portraits where multiple people will be brought together from different photos, please send 2-5 photos of each person involved if possible. This is so I can choose the best ones to put together to create the most natural looking composition.

  • For photos that are printed, I require them to be scanned in to the computer to get the most quality out of the photograph.

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Pet Portraiture Reference Photos

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1. Get on your pet's level

The client sent 3 photos. We decided on the middle photo, due to the flattering 3/4 angle which can translate well into portraits.

  • Photos taken from above, looking down at your pet, can be unflattering. Kneel down to get on your pet's level, and take a photo. Holding a treat slightly off to the side, creating a 3/4 angle of your pet's face, can also be very flattering, as shown above.

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2. Choose natural lighting

Successful photo taken with a natural light source coming from one side, illuminating Darcey's face. Second, less suitable photo, taken in an artificially lit room, with shadows cast on the eyes making details less visible.

  • Lighting is a powerful tool and can change the whole ambiance of a portrait. Natural, soft lighting is always best, as this most effectively shows all of your pet's features and illuminates the eyes. I recommend sitting your pet next to a window, with the light source hitting your pet from either straight ahead, or from one side.

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3. Good quality - Can you see the fur direction?

In the successful two photos, you are able to see which direction the fur is going in, and the fine details in Bailey's face. In the unsuccessful photo, details are blurry and under lit.

  • All photos above were taken with the same iPhone camera. Good quality photos do not require a high tech camera, but there are things you can do to get the most out of your device, such as getting closer up and taking the photo in natural daylight. As a general rule, if you can see the details in your pet's eyes and the direction of their fur, your photo is of good enough quality to draw from.

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4. Capturing your pet's natural expression

  • Capturing an expression that you love most in your pet can be challenging, however this will really take your portrait to it's best level. If your cat often looks like he's plotting world domination, like Buddy above, try to capture that within your photos! It may take a few days of being vigilant with you phone or camera to capture these moments, but it pays off.

  • If your dog is more of the sofa couch type like Charlie, capturing him on his favourite sofa & blanket with his soulful eyes could be a great way to convey his personality. 

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5. Pets that have passed away

 "Our son commissioned a portrait of our beautiful GSD, Harley (who sadly passed away last month) for my husband's 60th Birthday. Grace is a truly talented, amazing artist! She has taken great care and attention to capture Harley's expression and light in his eyes. It is so beautiful and will always be a treasured reminder of him." - Jane

If you're looking to commission a portrait of a pet that has unfortunately passed away, please do not worry! I welcome you sending as many photos you have of them to my email address, whether they be recent or photos that have been taken over the years. I will do my best to make do with the photos you have. Quantity is key here, as if one photo has detail that another doesn't, I can sometimes mix and match photos to create an image myself.

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6. Multiple pets in a group portrait

  • If you're looking to commission a portrait of multiple pets in one portrait, I ask for separate photos of each pet. I then arrange them together in Photoshop, as shown on the right, to make a 'mock-up', with a few different compositions for you to choose which you like best!

  • Below is the finished portrait, on a square 70x70cm bristol board paper, framed using my professional framing service.

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 "This is officially THE best present EVER!! Thanks a million! Beyond happy!"

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